Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally participated in a panel discussion on vaccine production and distribution across Asia at the “World Immunisation and Logistics Summit”, today.The virtual conference brought together over 1,000 attendees from around the region and the world in active discussion around tackling key issues facing global supply chains as the world faces the largest and most complex logistical operation in history in an effort to deliver life-saving vaccines worldwide.The panel was excited to know how India is scaling up production of COVID-19 vaccines and how the government was working with local and international partners to ensure the timely distribution of these vaccines.Dr. Harsh Vardhan showcased India’s vaccine administration program; the development of two vaccines in our country- Covishield and Covaxin; the priority pyramid of beneficiaries that targets those above 60 and above 45 with co-morbidities with focus on the recent decision to allow all citizens above 45 and above years for vaccination from 1st April, 2021.Reminding everyone that India produces 60% of the world’s vaccine, he also detailed how infrastructure for India’s universal immunization programme provided a pivot for the COVID vaccine drive. On the dichotomy of helping, one’s countrymen or serving the entire humanity, he said, “More than 61 million vaccine doses have been already administered in our country. We always feel that benefits of the science be delivered to the whole world. 64 million doses have been given to 84 countries under various programs.”Development of vaccine was actively and proactively supported by the government; the expert group for vaccine NEGVAC was formed 6 months before their launch which planned each detail of the vaccine, its manufacturing, logistics and administration. Half a dozen of vaccines are under clinical trial and around one dozen vaccines are in pre-clinical trial which are being monitored by the body, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated. The Union Minister also informed that there is significant amount of fund allocated for the research and development of vaccine.
Dr Harsh Vardhan addressed a question on the global powers coming together to operate and supply vaccines worldwide in the current situation. Applauding initiatives for collaboration including the HOPE consortium as a welcome step, Dr. Harsh Vardhan observed, “It is going to help in shaping the future policy for equitable distribution of vaccine. This will strengthen the efforts of WHO in their commitment to ensuring that there is a common platform in validation, all manufacturing companies of the whole world are on the same page and all stakeholders are committed to equitable distribution of vaccine. We have learnt from each other’s experiences, and from various guidelines. There is a great need for this exercise to be scaled up. We need to introspect and review till the time everyone on this platform gets vaccinated.” He reminded them of the phrase, ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe.’Recollecting the biggest challenges faced by him in terms of rolling out the vaccination programme, the Minister said, “India itself with a huge population of 1.35 billion and huge diversity is a big challenge. We took this challenge head on under the leadership of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. On 17th of January last year, we had issued an advisory regarding COVID long before it snowballed into the crisis it is today. We also developed capacities for testing, ventilators, tracking, surveillance, quarantine centre and emphasized that COVID Appropriate Behaviour is the most potent vaccine against COVID.” After the launch of the vaccines, we prioritized our health care workers, front line workers, the general population aged 45 and above with co-morbidities and those above 60 years of age; and now all those above 45 years. We also planned the opening of 50,000 centres across the country and trained 7 lakh vaccinators for the exercise, he added.The Union Health Minister concluded the discussion lauding the need for public-private alliances like the Hope Consortium which was founded to provide supply chain solutions to support the safe and efficient distribution of COVID vaccines.The global panel discussion was moderated by popular news anchor Laura Buckwell, the panel had Madhav Kurup, Regional CEO MESA, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and Dr. Pascal Rey-Herme, Co-Founder and Group Medical Director, International SOS as co-panelists.